Memorial in the graveyard of the Kirk of St Nicholas

At last I am here in Scotland. It has only been a couple of days since I touched down from Perth but I didn't want to waste a moment and so I have been busy wandering around the city and taking in the ambiance of this great old place. The architecture here is so fantastic, it's a world all of its own with the grey stone and elaborate facades and tiny winding back streets which always seem to lead somewhere wonderful. My favorite place in the city is the churchyard of the Kirk of St Nicholas. It's in the very center of the city and inside one wouldn't even know that the busy hustle and bustle of Union Street is only meters away. Along the walls there are elaborately carved memorials and though the graves are worn down by age there is something very peaceful about the moss and the damp and the canopy of green overhead. 

Viewed from inside the graveyard the huge stone gateway is imposing in its size and gravity, a superb but chilling reminder of the transience of man's existence on earth. Outside the spell is broken and the hustle and bustle of everyday life continues. Union Jack bunting runs for the whole stretch of Union street adding a festive cheer to my wandering. I have a special fascination for churches and St Marchar's Cathedral was a feast for the eyes and the imagination. The paneled ceiling was awesomely impressive and the stained glass windows and flags were gorgeous.

Stained glass window commemorating the fallen of WWI in St Marchar's Cathedral
For my first day in Aberdeen I'd seen a lot of really fascinating old things which I stored away for future use in my art.

Crathes Castle seen from the walled garden. Giant Topiary frame the small gate onto the lawn.
The next day I decided to venture further afield and though I'm not great at finding my way around I resolved to go on an adventure and took the bus out of Aberdeen to see an old Scottish castle. The one I chose was Crathes. Luckily for me it was a beautiful day and the journey out into the countryside was very relaxing. 

It was a quite a long walk from the road to the castle but a small track took me through woodland and up until I could see the towers of Crathes between the trees. What a wonderful place Crathes is with its pink rendered walls and its assortment of oddly shaped towers emerging haphazardly from the castle walls. Ascending the spiral staircase was a joy of geometry and whitewash leading ever upwards to rooms with painted ceilings and tiny carved beds smothered in a fantasy of embroidery. From the utmost rooms the views were spectacular, taking in the walled garden and the rolling landscape beyond.

The view from the top level of Crathes.
Small water feature in the walled garden

I really enjoyed looking through the castle but I was surprised by how the gardens took an equal hold on my imagination. Perhaps it is the fact that Nik and I are now gardening ourselves I found the walled garden at Crathes was such a delight. I believe it was begun in the early decades of the 20th century and though it is Autumn in Scotland there are many beautiful flowers still turning their faces towards the sun.

Around every corner there were delicate planted compositions and now and again a small folly or quiet space would appear to please the eye. I took many photos of plant specimens for my future paintings and wished I had more time to stay and sketch. 

Codona's amusement park with the best and worst rides I've ever been on

On Saturday morning the sky was golden over the sea and Codona's amusement park which is across the road from our apartment beckoned. It was a lot of fun though everyone else at the park had to be about 10 and younger. It may not have been the best idea to eat a burger then go on every crazy spinning ride but it all worked out in the end and I don't think Nik and I have ever laughed so much in our lives. The Haunted House was especially hilarious, taking its place as the lamest attraction we'd ever seen but it was all the better for it.


Wives and Stunners

'Monna Vanna'  Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1866
'La Ghirlandata' Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1873
People often tell me that I am a romantic at heart and looking at the way I view the world I have to agree. From an early age I felt a real passion for Vivaldi and Botticelli, for the poetry of Shelley and the writing of the great Victorian novelists Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson. For a long time I was absolutely obsessed with Mozart and went on pilgrimages to Austria to attain some deeper sense of connection to his life and work. 

Very soon I will be going on another pilgrimage of sorts. This time my fascination turns towards the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and the women who became their muses. I do wonder though if a greater knowledge of the lives of my idols is always a good idea. Right now I hold a romantic view of their lives in my mind informed by nothing more then the connection I have with their artwork. Will their lives colour the way I perceive works I have loved for so long? I must hope that this knowledge will make them all the richer.

'The Tree of Forgiveness' Edward Burne-Jones 1881-1882


Stephen Glassborow

Normally I am so engrossed in my own art that I don't pay much attention to what is happening outside of my small sphere. Today however I took the time to go and see 'Heavy Metal' an exhibition of works by Stephen Glassborow at the Linton and Kay Fine Art Gallery in Subiaco. 

I am in love. These works are like poetry wrapped within a skin of bronze. I adore Stephen's strong grounding in graphic design and his evocative use of line and colour. 

A while ago I saw 'Optional Extras' and it has always haunted me as a superb work which caught me by surprise and held my fascination over the passage of time.